training theory


The best trainers, the ones who successfully teach others to do challenging behaviors, do it in a way that gives the learner optimism and keeps them engaged. Frustration is rare and the sense of accomplishment is pervasive. This isn’t because the teacher is a cheerleader that says good job! irregardless […]

Domino Teaching


There’s been a lot of press lately about raising resilient children. Educators and parents are noticing that kids aren’t able to recover from disappointment, or problem-solve solutions to obstacles. A culprit is the trend of adults to jump in and assist during even the smallest of challenges. To instill resiliency, […]

The Resilient Horse


One day last week I was feeling tired and stressed. If the weather had been good, I would have taken Tonka out on a trail. But the weather was not. I could have ridden in the arena. Being in the saddle would have distracted me and the exercise would have […]

Let Your Horse Sniff



Recently, the buzzwords in animal training and welfare are choice and autonomy. The thinking is that the more animals have control over their own lives, the healthier they’ll be emotionally and physically. Certainly, giving the animal an environment in which they can choose their level of comfort – shady or […]

Choice and Autonomy


I am writing this while looking out at the Atlantic Ocean from my room at the Yankee Clipper Inn. I am here for two days with my good friend, Karen Pryor. A couple of times a year we go on these writing retreats. We hole up in our separate rooms […]

Don’t Clicker Train Your Horse. Yet.


Riding instructors talk a lot about aids – how you use your hands, seat and legs – to communicate what you want to the horse. I’d add another aid, and to me it’s at least as important as the others. Your eyes. Do this. Right now, look to the right. […]

Look, Focus, and Go



For Tonka, 2017 was year of symptoms but no definitive diagnosis. It started with a slight head shaking. Then his back hurt. Then Tonka felt great and we had some rides where he did brilliant first level work. Then he couldn’t bend his neck. Then his back was sore again. […]

Getting Moving


I recently had to rework some sloppy training on my part. It took me awhile to notice that I’d let things slip. Tonka is a calm and amenable gelding. But even a horse like that is always adjusting their behavior to what their human is doing. Just because you’ve taught […]

Reworking Sloppy Training


All horses can potentially cause injury to us humans. Their vision, hearing and smell keeps them hyper-aware of danger, and their response to that is to put distance between themselves and the perceived threat. If prevented from fleeing, they will rear, kick and strike-out. Horses are especially wary of new […]

Desensitizing and Counter-Conditioning Horses